Friday, 24 February 2017

Jessica Jones: Alias Book 1 (#1-9) PART TWO

"What the fuck?" - Jessica

So in part one we met Jessica Jones.  She's an ex-superhero in a bit of a tail spin.  She drinks, she smokes, she has casual sex, and as of yet we don't know why she is such a mess or why she forsook her superhero identity "Jewel".  She has super strength and can sort of fly although finds landing hard.  She now works as a private detective, her agency is called Alias Investigations and she keeps finding cases that bring her back into the superhero fold.  In the previous case she became an unwilling part of a convoluted attempt to bring down the President by pinning a murder on Captain America.  It was all sorted out thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D and Steve Rogers came to thank her personally and told her to reconnect with Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers which she did at the end.  So her past is still a mystery, her present a pile of self loathing, her future yet to be revealed.  So lets finish Book one with another look into the world of Jessica Jones.

The story begins with Jessica and Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers having a meal out together and having a good laugh about their superhero looks in the past.  Jessica says her costume was bad but her hair never went the "Farrah".  Carol says Jessica was totally "Flashdance".

Jessica: "Fuck Jennnifer Beals and what she did to my youth.  I look at some of those pictures and I say: man, was I giving off the slut signal or what?"

Carol asks her what the boy situation is these days.  Jessica says in her line of work all she meets in cheaters.  Jessica admits she has done "stupid stuff with guys lately".  Needy and pathetic like she wouldn't believe.  Carol asks if she is going out with Luke Cage.

Jessica is silent, then asks how she knew.  "Grapevine" grins Carol.  Jessica says she isn't going out with him.  Carol says good because he is "a cape chaser" and lists all the superheroes he's shagged.  Jessica is diappointed she read him so badly.  Carol asks what it was like with him, Jessica says "I was hammered, I have no fucking idea".  Carol says she's lying.  Jessica says shes in shock from the cape chasing thing.  Carol says she is going to have to find her a guy.
Luke Cage is a man-whore!
She suggests Scott Lang the current Ant-Man.  Jessica says she isn't interested, Carol says thats because she only wants to sleep with the bad boys.  Jessica says she wants to "stay out of the genetically-altered pool altogether".  Carol ignores her protests and using a little device she prints out Scott's number for her.  Then Carol gets the Avengers Assemble call and makes to leave saying she'll call her later because she didn't even tell her what she wanted too, leaving Jessica on a cliffhanger.

Later she is flirting with someone in a gay chatroom for work, she signs off ruminating that she is doing this while Carol saves the world.  She lights a fag and thinks about her current case. A woman named Nancy Moss hired her, she belives her husband has gone from cybersexing behind her back to full blown actual sex.  And while she didn't mind the cybersex (much to Jessica's digust) finding out her husband was gay when he left his computer signed on and she could witness messages from "BIGBLACKDICKFORU" and "TSSDSALAD" was too much.

Jessica's job is to initiate cybersex with him  ask to meet in real life.  "I wonder if this is the first time in the history of the internet that a guy was speaking to a girl posing as a guy?" she thinks to herself.  She has him "primed and pumped".  The next time she contacts him she'll set up a meeting.  The wife is as "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore", she is building the most damning divorce case she can.

She goes to have a pee and freshen up and bumps into a strange teenage boy with a case.   He tells her he's a big fan of hers, "all the guys at my school are into the X-Men and that tool Spider-man and shit...but I like you goin' on.  I like that you ain't into the costume shit".  He says he read up on her online, then watched a movie where De Niro plays a private eye and it reminded him of her.
Jessica's teen admirer.
She asks how old he is, he says seventeen.  She gently shuts the door on him, ignoring his offers of help. She goes to check her messages when there is a knock at the door.  She starts yelling at the teenager then opens the door to a weeping woman.  She says her name is Jane Jones, her husband has gone missing for weeks and she doesn't know what to do. Her husband's name is Rick Jones, which should be familiar to those with wider knowledge of the Marvel Universe. she also says he's related to Jessica.

Jessica sits and Jane pours out her story.   He's been gone over a month, the Avengers don't answer their door, they've been married six months and met at one of his shows, "the voice of an angel, he has, I meant it - an angel".  But he got caught up in superhero shit which stopped hm going the whole way.

Apparently he stopped the Kree-Skrull war all by himself.  He ran with the superheroes but she never met any, the Avengers have tight security, he'd always come home and tell her the stories.  She found the "perfect man" but had to share him with the world everyonce in a while.  She feels sick not knowing where he is.  He also spoke highly of Jessica.

Jessica then breaks the news that she isn't related to her husband.  She never met him.  Bewildered Jane says Rick talked about her all the time, "he really admires you".  Jane fumbles with some cash.  Jessica tells her to put it away and give her  contact details and she'll look into it.  Jane thanks her.

Sitting on the toilet Jessica does some thinking. She did her quickie check that Jane was for real and she is, married to Rick Jones. She mulls over who she could ask for help and comes up empty.  She's really confused about supposedly being related to him.
The glam life of a PI.
She first phones one of her parents to check if they have any Ricks in the  it devolves into an argument about her superhero past reflecting badly on her parents and she finishes the call.  She then goes to the bookshop and finds a book by Rick Jones in the remainder bin.  It's called "Sidekick" and is about all his exploits as sidekick to various Marvel heroes the rest of the arc includes text extracts from it.

Later she is outside reading the book when a young woman comes up and asks what powers she has.  Jessica wants to knowwhy she'd ask that.  The woman says her power is detecting who has powers, she says she's a mutant but her friends don't believe her. One of her friends comes up and sees the book she is reading and calls her "a fuckin' Jones groupie".

Jessica asks if he knows him, the young man says "fucker doesn't shut up!! Well, he shuts up when he's fucking every girl in New York City..." Jessica say so he's talked to him, the young man says Rick Jones talks at you.  He might pay for food but doesn't shut up about the Kree-Skrull war and hanging out with Hulk and Captain Marvel, yet can't write "just one decent fucking song".
Rick Jones?
Jessica queries this and they point her to a club he plays at called "Ultimate".  He usually shows up after his set at tenish, elevenish.  Then the two youngsters leave bickering with each other.   Jessica goes to the currently closed Ultimate club and sees many flyers with Rick Jone's name on. 

She then revisits the club when it is open and Rick Jones appears on stage and starts a song which he dedicates to his friend "Bruce".   Later Jessican approaches him backstage.  He grabs his guitar case and uses it as a barrier between them and aggressively asks:

Rick: "Who are you with, the Kree or the Skrull?  WHO SENT YOU TO FUCK UP MY LIFE AGAIN!?!?!"

She grabs his arm and tells her that her name is Jessica Jones and she is neither Kree nor Skrull "so.. calm.. the.. fuck... down".  She tells him that his wife hired her to find him, she's worried about him.

She wants to know why he didn't go home. He says he can't because of the Kree Skrull fucking his shit up.  She wants to know why he told his wife they were related.  Rick doesn't know why she said that, he never said he and Jessica were related.  He says his wife is so whacked she concocts "theories with no foundation".  So she made it up.

As they sneak out of the venue, he goes onto say he "married a lunatic". But he loves her. Jessica asks him to come with him to see her, but suddenly there is a boom and he ducks into an alleyway.  It was just a car backfiring.  She catches up with him and he asks her what she knows about the Kree-Skrull war.  She says she read it in his book.
Reasons to fear.
He says after winning the war, he had a book and record deal, but he couldn't be so high profile, "there's a bounty... an actual price on my head".  Powerful people from another planet are pissed off with him.  He starts to climb the fence and Jessica asks "just.. who is after you?" On the other side of the fence Rick says he's tired and at his wits end.  Because of the bounty on his head and that he's considered a war criminal he's not going to endanger his wife.

"War crimes" queries Jessica and she rips the fence apart. Rick tries to explain himself, he did nothing but:

Rick: "I just.. I got heroic for a second and I ended the thing.  So now the governments want a little under-the-table payback.  Like no little human pisher's going to fuck up their chances of dominance.  You think those kinds of heroics or whatever go unanswered? They do not.  So now my life is fucked again!"

Jessica wants to know why he still performs at the club, he says he lost everything but he needs to get on stage and strum a guitar.  She asks why he didn't ask the Avengers for help.  After some prodding from her he admits Captain America is pissed at him.  He is angry about the book and Rick doesn't want to bother him.

Jessica says they could talk to Reed Richards, so he agrees to go to the Baxter Building with her.  They arrive at reception to be greeted by a robot receptionist.  She says access to Dr. Richards is by appointment only.  When they try and tell her what the problem is the receptionist tells them she won't be making an appointment for them and to "have a nice day".
No help from the Fantastic Four.
They leave, and Jessica tries to phone the Avengers, suddenly Rick says "oh my god..." and he takes off into the crowd.  Calling after him Jessica chases him but he knocks a man down and she stops to see if he is OK.  Then Rick is lost in the crowd, "what the fuck!" she exclaims.

Jessica finally gets through to the Avengers Emergency Hotline, she leaves a rambling message saying she was hired to find Rick Jones and found him and he's in trouble with the Skrulls, he's running scared and even though he's fallen out with Captain America his life is in danger and "that's more important than whatever thing he is goibg through with you guys".

She leaves her number and asks if she can please be told what's going on.  She is back in her office and knackered, she check her internet and her gay honeytrap worked the man wants to meet her in Starbucks wearing a rollneck sweater, "how incredibly uninteresting on every level".  She checks her mail then slumps forwards asleep.

She wakes up to find her teenage admirer fielding a phonecall.   She grabs the phone off him and speaks to Jarvis the Avengers butler.  He is calling on behalf of Captain America regarding her call:

Jarvis: "Now this Rick Jones... this was here in New York City? Well ma'am, I'm sorry to tell you that the gentleman you found is not Rick Jones.  Rick Jones is safe and sound in Los Angeles".

He goes on to say they are aware of the fake Rick Jones running round the West Village.  If she has anymore trouble with him let them know and they'll have "the proper authorities deal with him".
Jessica finally gets some answers.
After she puts the phone down she yells "GOD! FUCKING...SHIT OF ALL SHIT!", her teenage admirer is still there, he asks for a job, she tells him to get lost.  She returns to the park and finds Rick Jones playing guitar and his wife is with him.  She rushes over and hugs Jessica in thanks for finding her husband.  Jesica says he worked it all out, and he says he did she was a huge help and he has his Janey back. What about the "trouble" he was in? "Not in front of the civilians" Rick says.

She goes and sits in a Starbucks.  A bearded man sits next to her.  She asks him what he does and he says he a psychotherapist. She asks him about meeting a man who has everyone convinced he's another famous guy.  There are huge holes in his story and the more you look at it the less convincing he is, yet "everyone buys it".

"Pseudologica Fantastica" says the psychotherapist. A person starts out with small lies and the ie gets "bigger and grander and more outrageous".  The interesting twist is the bigger and more fantastical the lie the more innocent peple believe.   Why do they believe asks Jessica.  "They just want to.  People...they're desperate for excitement.  They want to know famous people".

Psychotherapist: "This is the world we live in... movie stars, rock stars, the Fantastic Four, mutant envy..."

"Mutant Envy?" says an incredulous Jessica.  "It's just not enough for some people just to be...people" says the Psychotherapist.
Putting it in persepctive.
He tells her some stories about what some people have done for a touch of fame.  Jessica thanks him for answering her questions.  He says no problem, the person he is meeting is late anyway.  She looks him in the eye and then says to him:

Jessica: "Go home to your wife, and come out of the closet.  She loves you and you're hurting her.  She deserves better than what you're doing to her".

He looks at her with terrified alarm, gathers his coat and flees the shop.  She then flashes back to her night waiting with Rick for the Baxter building to open.  She told him his book really got to her.  She especially identified with him talking about having physical reaction to people in costumes, she realised her body was screaming at her not to be around the costumed people, " body would freak out and say 'don't be here. This isn't where regular people should be'"

Rick says she has powers though but she says it was one of the main reasons she shouldn't be wearing a costume.  Because Rick feels the same it's nice to meet somene in the same boat, "it was nice to know I'm not nuts".  Rick is silent.  Then he gets up to go to the bathroom and says it was nice what she said.  We end with her back in Starbucks,

Jessica: "'The peasants want the kings to come down and play...' fuck."

This is a interesting story, it's basically a series of conversations about truth, lies, reality and fantasy.  Opening the story with a several page meal and chat between Carol and Jessica was a great way to set that stall out from the start.  It was also nice to see the somewhat troubled Jessica smiling and having a good time.  What's fascinating is how we're getting a look at the sort of class system the hero class has bought to America, even more untouchable and unreachable than celebrities, for a street level hero like Jessica getting any kind of respect seems difficult despite her having connections within the Avengers.  The rest of the story is a dissection of the cult of celebrity and how people will cling to a scrap of it.  Even Jessica is fooled as her final flashback shows.  The story structure is also strong with the luring out of the gay husband paying of brilliantly at the end.  Some people will bemoan the lack of action in this story but I'm more interested in it as a character and world building exercise.  I like Bendis's dialogue and I like Gaydos's art and how well they mesh.  Look out for volume 2 next month.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Jessica Jones: Alias Book 1 (#1-9) PART ONE

"How long you gonna kick me for?" - Jessica Jones

It's fair to say that amongst the Marvel faithful, writer Brian Michael Bendis is somewhat of a contentious figure.  Because I don't follow the Marvel Universe as doggedly as I do the DCU I have a pretty positive opinion of the guy mainly due to his amazingly good run on Daredevil in the early noughties and this series which kicked off the Marvel MAX line aimed at adult readers roundabout the same time.  This is the story of Jessica Jones, ex-superhero who has super strength and can fly but quit superheroing for reasons that veiwers of the Jessica Jones TV series will know about but which isn't revealed in this series until the final volume so I won't be giving the game away for anyone who hasn't yet seen the TV show.  She now runs Alias Investigations, a private investigations firm and somehow cases keep bringing her back in contact with the superhero world she never found her niche in.  Interestingly unlike Deadpool MAX and Garth Ennis's Punisher and Fury MAX series these stories are still very much set in the mainstream Marvel Universe, it's just here people have anal sex and say "fuck" which makes for some weird mental readjustments sometimes especially as only a few years earlier people in the Marvel Universe couldn't even say "hell" or "damn".  This first volume contains the first nine issues, and I've split it into two parts each covering an arc.  So time to enter the somewhat screwed up world of Jessica Jones by creator and writer Brian Michael Bendis and with art by co-creator Michael Gaydos.

We begin in the office of Alias Investigations. A man is sat in a chair, "God fucking dammit!" he expostulates.   Jessica tells him that when he hired her, "these things rarely end well".  She asks if he wants a moment alone, but the man is freaking out about the fact he's been cheated on.  He turns on Jessica saying she enjoyed snooping round their lives and laughing at him.  He lunges at her and she throws him through her office door.
Jessica and a photo of her as "Jewel".
Later she is talking with police officer who admonishes her for tossing the man through her door.  She explains the guy didn't like what she had to say.  Then the cop notices a photo of her in a superhero costume with The Avengers.  He sees one of her with the original Ms. Marvel and asks what her superhero name was:

Jessica:  " doesn't matter".

Cop: "Come on, maybe I've heard of you".

Jessica: "You haven't.  I don't do that anymore...I outgrew it."

The cop says she's not above the law.  He doesn't want to get another call like this one.  Her current job is something of a comedown from superheroing.  Jessica says it could be worse, she could be them.  The other cop pull the first cop away and leave Jessica alone.  She lights a cigarette and slumps forwards on her desk.

We then cut to her in the same position in a bar, she is somewhat drunk. The owner of the bar is Luke Cage, Powerman, who has unbreakable skin.  He starts chatting her up and she says to him:

Jessica:  "I just...I just want to feel something.... different."

Luke: "How about I just take you home..."

We then jump to them in bed together.   It's obvious that he is sodomising her,  She looks pained and reflects that Luke  will feel both bad and secretly good about what they did together that night. But she doesn't care, she just wanted to feel something, "pain...humility...anger. I just want to feel something different".
Thank goodness she wasn't on a date with Iron Fist!
Next day she is back in her office collecting her post when another potential client appears. She is a wealthy looking woman whose sister has gone missing and Jesscia came highly recommended.  Jessica agrees to hear her out.  Her sister is called Miranda who is the total opposite of her and who drifted through trouble her entire life.  But lately seemed to have her act together and had met a decent man who she described as "the one".  But when she told her not to be so gung ho and rush into something, her sister got really mad and now has cut of all communication between herself and her sister including moving house.  Her sister is worried about her and just wants to know if she is OK.

Jessica warns her finding her sister and confronting her "might make things worse".  The woman repeats that she wants to know she's OK.  Jessican takes some info from her and arranged a price then once alone gets to work.  She narrates in his head that she often spends more time checking if "the client is legit than I do finding the person".

Now thanks to the internet she can do a lot of the grunt work that used to involve going to the Hall of Records or bribing people at the police station. This research leads her to staking out a flat at night.  She sees the woman open the door to someone:

Jessica: "Wow.  That's one big piece of beefcake you got yourself there."

As she keeps watching she sees the man get paged, which makes her think he's a doctor or a "big fat married cheating liar." But then something strange happens, the man leaves via the roof and removes his civilian clothes to reveal Captain America.  Jessica, is taping the whole thing and is dumbstruck at what she now has on film.
And suddenly shit gets real.
She later returns to her flat, stands outside paranoidly staring at it for forty-two minutes, "It's not like I don't have a reason... I am holding a videotape that people would kill for".  She decides staring at her own curtains is a "surreal fucking experience". She ventures inside, but no one is in there.  She watches the tape back and confirms she has taped Captain America and his girlfriend..

She ejects the tape and decides to destroy it.   She puts it in the microwave but pauses as various thoughts asail her.  She caught Captain America changing from his civilian to superself.  The man is a "living American legend,  A man of political infuence,  A man with huge enemies".  She starts to wonder if this was a set up, and begins to panic that "they" will harm her and her family to get the tape. 

Jessica: "I have been so fucking set up.  I am so screwed... come on, first instinct's always right.  It's a setup"

She calls the contact number the lady who first contacted her with this job, but the phonecall gives her the message that the number she has dialled has been disconncted.

She then hails a taxi to go back to the address she was given, but it's a baby clothes shop so she goes back to the woman she founds address and gets out when she sees a crowd has gathered round the place she was surveilling earlier.   Apparently the woman has been murdered, strangled by someone's bare hands. Called in by an anonymous source.
And now there's been a murder.
Jessica goes to Luke Cage's flat seeking comfort, but he peeks through the door saying now is not a good time. Then another woman's face pokes through demanding to know who she is.  Feeling stressed and sad Jessica sits on the stairs and weeps.  Next day she travel to Avengers Mansion.  She tells the gate communicator she needs to talk to Captain America.  It coldly tells her he is away, and she has fifteen seconds to back away from the gate.
She returns to her office and find two detectives waiting for her. She lets them into the office while one asks if she still has her powers and are all her detective licences in order. Then they get down to business, Jessica was hired to tail Miranda Pratchett. Jessica admits she only saw her once last night.  She pretends to be surprised when she is told Miranda is dead.  Unfortunately for her, the police take extensive pictures of the crowds and Jessica is in them.  For that lie they are going to arrest her and take her downtown.
A classic page of Bendis and Gaydos working together.
Jessica is sat patiently waiting in the interrogation room.  The cop, Paul Hall, says he heard "you used to hop around the city under the name Jewl".  She says she has no aliases now. He asks her some more about her powers, she says she is strong, strong enough to walk out if she wanted to.  Paul asks if she wants to do that now,  Jessica says she'd just end up in more trouble.  She also admits to being able to fly, but "I can't land real well"  She says flying is not all it's cracked up up be.

Paul holds up a photo of her as Jewel and asks why she doesn't do that anymore, "a symbol can mean a lot to people".Jessica says that't just not her way anymore.  Finally after more suprehero talk she asks what this has to do with why she has been arrested.   She asks for a phonecall, Paul says only "guilty people" ask for them.

He says she can wait a sec while he question her some more.  How did her powers work for her as a private dick?  "Up until today... pretty good".  She tell him she found the girl, then went to tell her sister but the number was disconnected and her address was a baby clothes store, so she went back to the sister's house to find a murder scene. She regrets lying to the police about being at the woman's house a second time.   She panicked:

Jessica: "I mean obviously someone is fucking with me and I didn't know what to do".

She thinks she was set up so she'd wind up being questioned by the police.  But she knows w
one thing, she didn't kill the girl and they are wasting time talking to her.  Paul asks when did she get home.  "One A.M." says Jessica.  And that was when she phoned the sister, Paul thinks that's an inapprpriate time to call.
Taken downtown.
Jessica says the woman was distraught when she gave her the job so she thought shes be happy to know her sister was safe and healthy.  At least she was when she left her. Paul changes tack and asks why officers were called to her office that morning.  Jessica says she has "an incident with an out of control client".  Who you threw through a plate glass window says Paul.

Paul: "I hear you got a temper on day you're throwing one through a plate glass window...the next day maybe you're strangling a woman to death".

Jessica is offended by this but Paul goes onto say maybe she has multiple personalities in there doing stuff.  This makes Jessica furious at this and starts cursing him out, "this is bullshit. I didn't do anything. So I want to make a living in this shithole of a city. So what?  Now I'm a murderer? Fuck you! And fuck..."
Matt Murdock to the rescue.
She is cutoff by Matt Murdock aka Daredevil arriving as his lawyer persona. He tells the cop they have no right to hold her and takes her away saying next time they want to talk to her it will be through his office.  As they walk outside Matt says a friend sent him, that friend being Luke Cage.  He asks her flat out "Did you kill that girl?"  Jessica replies "of course not" and this is all the proof Matt needs. He give her his card and says of the cops, "ten bucks says you never hear from them again" and walks off.

Later Jessica visits Carol Danvers who is mad at her for treating her like utter crap in the past.  But Jessica needs a favour from her, she wants her to check the number the "sister" gave her.  Carol agrees and Jessica goes home to wait her email.  It finally arrives, the number was part of a "bank" numbers with the main number being "202-555-0812".  She also apologies for being cold towards Jessica and offers her help in the future to. Jessica wonders what area "202" is.  She dials the number and gets a big surprise, it's one for the for the commitee to elect the "Democratic Presidentail candidate Steven Keaton".

The next chapter begins with a jaunty party political broadcast for Steven Keaton that accuses the unnamed Republican President for spending too much time hanging out with superheroes, for being "someone whose ear is bent by people hiding behind masks and shadows".  Some political pundits then chew the strategy over.  One says it's a "poorly thought out strategy" his opposer says the President has done nothing but "gallivant and socialise with these costumed men masked men of... questionable backgrounds".  Steven Keaton has been getting his hands dirty with "real people" in contrast rather than getting "his ear bent by aliens, mutants and God knows what else?"
This was on in a bar and while it was on Jessica ruminates on finally seeing something that was in front of your face all the time. As the men on TV debate further with the pro-Keaton one saying that "fearing large men wearing masks is still good advice where I come from."  As he says that Jessica crushes the glass she is drinking from.  The barman grabs a baseball bat and tells her to get out, "I don't want your mutant shit in my place".  She staggers out mumbling that heroes fight for the likes of him.

She walks out into the cold light of day ruminating on her "make it up as I go along scheme".  First she is going to find the woman who hired her in the first place. She goes inside a "Keaton for President" campaign office and the woman who hired her spots her and tries to slip out the back, calling on her mobile as she does so to a "Mr. Lawson".  Like a vengeful angel, Jessica drops down from the rooftop.  The woman faints, Jessica takes her phone from her and sees she is calling a "Lawson. Daviano".
You cannot escape Jessica.
It turns out to be a firm of lawyers called "Lawson, Daviano and Silver".  Jessica walks into Lawson's office and asks him why she was hired via a third party by him to find a woman who was murdered.   Lawson blusters that he has never heard of her, doesn't know who she is talking about and he doesn't appreciate being accused of something.  When she refuses to leave he threatens to have the police come and arrest her, but she calls his bluff saying she'll know what she'll tell them.  Satisfied by his silent response, she leaves.

She then narrates to herself that the point of that confrontation was to discover that the lawyer knew who she was but not that their was a dead person involved.  Now she is going to wait outside staking out his car and follow him when he comes rushing out.  As she waits Matt Murdock calls her and says she is off the hook for the murder.  Also the lead deective was pulled from the case entirely.   The evidence that helped exonerate her was the fact that the woman had indentations of fingers from a very large man round her neck.

As he tells her this, a very large man with very large hands rips open Jessica's car door and drags her out. He wraps his hands round her neck and starts choking her.  Jessica gasps out "wh... what do you want from me?" as he throttles her.  "Nothing" grins the man in response.
Marko gets his just beatdown.
As he squeezes he says the best thing about work-for-hire gigs is that once he has killed her he can take her somewhere remote and do whatever he wants with her, "then you'll find out why they call me 'Man Mountain Marko'". Ewwwww. This give Jessica her second wind, she claps her hands either side of his head and he drops her, clasping his ears in pain.   Then she grabs his balls and squeezes, grounding him while she thinks about how she dislikes fighting.  She kneels on Marko's chest and keeps punching him until he tells her who he is working for.

Then we cut to a rich asshole called Mr. Zoumas playing golf.  Jessica comes walking across the green towards him.  His bodygaurds point guns at her but she bluffs them into thinking she is bulletproof.  Zoumas tells them to stand down.  He tells her to sell the tape she made, to make money or save herself from a murder rap. "You murdered the girl because you wanted me to give the tape away..?" Jessica is incredulous at this.

Zoumas wants to know what she wants from him.  She wants him to confess. He says, to what? Tricking her to making a tape of Captain America's secret identity? Confess to a murder?  If he was to, the authorities would need to see the tape.

Zoumas: "All I want you to do is give up flag boy to the press.  And it seems this is something you have no interest in doing... But now you've got me where you want me - caught red-handed.  But to do anythng about it you have to give uo flag boy.  They call it a stalemate girl".

Jessica wants to know why him.  Zoumas says it's because he's the "President's little buddy".  The President has debts and hasn't paid them.  Services have been rendered and not been attended to.  Zoumas is so mad at the President he gave himself an anal fissure.
Mr Zoumas tells Jessica the facts of life.
So the plan is to put someone into office who does understand who and what they are.  So they have manufactured a scandal "involving an asshole who dresses up in our flag".  Scandals involving the President are egineered by big money and leaked via third, fourth and fifth parties, "so it seems like an accident.  A slip.  A coinkydink.... we make it look like... like it just sort of happened".

He then tells Jessica to release the tape, because if she destroys it or comes at him again, he'll come at her and "I'll paint a picture of you to the world so ugly even you won't fuck you."  Then a year later he'll have her killed in her sleep.  He walks off to play the next hole.

Then her mobile goes off and she takes a call from a Clay Quarterman.  He tells her to turn around quickly and walk away the direction she came from.  As she goes and hides in the treeline, Clay says they have had a bug on her since the crime scene in Manhattan.  Suddenly helicopters descend over Zoumas's group and opens fire, then agents drop down to arrest them.

Clay: "Jessica you have to go right now, or I can't protect you from my superiors. Oh, and by the way, if yu had taken the job with us at S.H.E.I.L.D none of this would ever have happened to you.  But you never listened to me, not once".

Later Jessica is relaxing at home watching a news report on Keaton wihdrawing from the Presidential race to "spend more time with my family."
Steve Rogers thanks her in person.
There is a knock at the door and Steve Rogers is there.  Jessica hands him the tape and he says it's out of both of their hands now - S.H.E.I.L.D stuff.  Steve notes she didn't release the tape, she says "it didn't even occur to me to do that until he told me that was what they were counting on."  She then tells him she is sorry about his lover. Steve starts blaming himself but she tells him not to do that to himself.

He then asks her why she doesn't do "it" anymore.  She admits it's because she realised she didn't have "that thing".

Jessica: "That thing that inspires be.  I dunno, better than they are."

Steve says he has met a million people in his life and "can't think of three who would have done this for me."  She protected him when he needed it most. She jokes he's not going to salute her is he?  He smiles and leaves saying if she wants to try again, she should at least call Carol, "she's a good friend to you".  After he is gone we finish this arc with her on the phone to Carol.
A happy ending? For now.
This is a fantastic introduction to a character that would go on to become a big part of the Marvel Universe.  Jessica Jones is a mass of neuroses and secrets that will slowly unravel as this maxi-series continues.  She gets drunk, has bad sex and lurches from one situation to another without much of a plan but with a brain shrewd enough to put the clues together and figure out a modernday polictical conspiracy to disgrace Captain America and bring down the Presidency.  Bendis's characteristic dialogue with lots of pauses, and repeats is matched beuatifully by Gaydos's artwork which has a very Warhol-like quality of using pages of the same image over and over.  His thick lined art gives the it a heft it might otherwise lack and the combination of the naturalistic speech and almost cartoonlike artwork reminds me very much of peak Cerebus the Aardvark which is a huge compliment as far as I am concerned. It's interesting seeing how the MAX philosophy can work with the mainstream Marvel Universe though it helps they are on the peripheries as the book concentrates on the rackety lifestyle of Jessica Jones. Book One contains two arcs, this was the first, the second I'll look at in a few days.

Friday, 17 February 2017

30 Days Of Night: Beyond Barrow (#1-3)

"Poor stupid bastards.  I almost feel sorry for them"  - John Ikos.

This is going to be the last visit to the world of 30 Days of Night (I have sadly had to skip the Eben and Stella mini due to the art making it impossible to tell who was who half the time) at least those collected in the two omnibuses.  In case you've missed any of my other looks at the various 30 Days of Night miniseries, the titular "30 Days of Night" are those experienced by the Alaskan town of Barrow when there is no sun for a month in winter.  Some enterprising vampires took it upon themselves to go and feed off the townsfolk and many of the inhabitants were killed.  The town sheriff Eben Olemaun injected himself with vampire blood and kept his sanity long enough to kill the head vampire and frighten the rest off.  He died sitting with his wife Stella when the sun finally came up.  Stella wrote a book about the incident called 30 Days of Night and became a veteran vampire hunter.  But she missed Eben too much and through a blood ritual bought him back and he promptly turned her into a vampire. However both kept their humanity and when vampires tried to attack Barrow again, they wiped the vampires out and promised to watch over the town for the foreseeable future.  We have also seen vampires in Mexico, on the Eastern Front in World War 2 and witnessed the crazed experiments of a vampire fetishist.  This final mini of omnibus two returns to Barrow many years after the last attack and is written by series co-creator Steve Niles with art by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz.

It begins... with tiny red lettering on black backgrounds which I need a flippin' torch to read, dammit!  But anyway, start again.  It begins.. with a potted history of Barrow. That the three things the town is used to are below zero temperatures, living in darkness and vampire attacks.

Narrator: "For creatures who fear the light and thirst for blood, Barrow and the entire Artic circle are heaven on Earth.  Hell on Earth if you are human."

We a small group of vampires walking through the snow towards the town.   The woman says they should not be here, that the townspeople are prepared and the vampire elders have forbade attacks on the town.  The leader says they will "invade, feed and then leave. Nobody, not even our own will be the wiser".
Something worse than vampires appears.
One of the others points to a plane coming in to land, the leader says "more blood for us".  They start moving again when suddenly they all sense something ahead of them that alarms them.  Then suddenly they are surrounded by something that rips them apart leaving nothing behind but a stripped skeleton.

In Barrow Bob Huey, the man who has run the Barrow airport for years has let in a plane he shouldn't have, it should be closed to air traffic during the dark month.  But he needed the cash and the offer was too good to pass up.  The passengers are Richard Denning, a billioniare and self-proclaimed adventurer who has read that vampires live near Barrow. His wife Kelly who showed him Stella Olemaun's book and got him bitten by the vampire hunting bug. Keri their daughter who "would rather be anywhere else in the world."

Chris Miller and his latest girlfriend Tina who are along for the adventure are also part of the expediion. So is Nat Gilmore who works for Richard and has no choice and finally Scott Powell, Richard's friend who likes guns and photography and wants to be the first human to take a photo of a vampire - dead or alive.
Every man has his price.
Richard hands over the bribe to Bob for letting him land.  Bob asks if he needs any transportation while he is in town.  Richard says he doesn't plan on spending much time in Barrow and he brought his own transport.  The plane unloads a jeep with caterpiller tracks instead of wheels, he bought it from the manufacturers who make them for the Alaskan National Guard and has upgraded it with stereo, video decks and a full bar. 

Bob: "Folks around here are lucky if we can get chains on our tyres or run-down snowcat."

Richard: "Well folks round here should invest their money better".

Bob says he'll hide the plane but if anyone asks he'll tell them they landed without permission and he turned the runway lights on so "you wouldn't splatter yourself all over Barrow".  Richards says he'll back him up if they meet anyone in town.

Bob panics, he thought they weren't going into town. Richard casually says they'll tell his lie for him and his party depart leaving Bob with a handful of cash wondering if it was worth it, "even he knows deep down, if these jackasses go anywhere but Barrow they'll probably wind up dead."

Richard says to his party that he doesn't care if they do go into Barrow, it's too well defended, the real action will be outside its walls. His wife says she and Keri want to photograph Eben's grave and the remains of the Ikos diner.  Keri sulkily says she doesn't want to take any pictures.   Her mum wants to see all the sights because if they find a vampire she and Richard are going to write a book.

They drive to the town gate and are stopped by armed men.  Richard says they just want to see the sights then they'll be on their way.  To come into Barrow they have to show identification, and their teeth.  Once inside they find the graveyard and Richard, Kelly and an unenthused Keri pose in front of Eben's grave for a photo. 
A tacky photo.
Then "out of nowhere" Marcus Kitka now seventeen, who was a kid when the last major attack happened, punches Richard saying "Get out of my town you goulish sons of bitches!" John Ikos who survived the first ever Barrow attack pulls Marcus away saying the visitors better take care of themselves, "this ain't Disneyland."  Richard mumbles they read the book, "don't worry old man.  We can handle ourselves". They drive off.

Marcus Kitka's father Brian is the sheriff of Barrow.  He and Marcus get along but they weren't as close as they were before the first attack the lived through that Marcus still has nighmares about. Defending Barrow has become Brian's year round job and it takes him away from Marcus who goes to see John Ikos about something bothering him about the newcomers.

He tells John he can't stop thinking about them, "that daughter or the jackass you punched?" queries John.  Marcus wants to know why they let them go out there.  John says it isn't their business and they wouldn't listen anyway.  Marcus says they get killed:

John: "If the cold don't, somethin' else is bound to come along.  It's called thinning the herd or natural selection".

Marcus says that's cynical and John says you get that way when you've fought to live as many times as he has.  Marcus says he's the perfect person to help them then, but John refuses saying he can't help people who don't want help.  But he gives in and says they'll check as far as "Tartok Ridge" but if they aren't in sight from there they are as good as dead.  They pick up some flash grenades and head on out.
The party camp out.
The vampire hunting party have made camp, a tent extended from the end of the jeep.  Inside they are all chatting, apart from Keri who has stayed up in the jeep portion of camp. Her mother says she is such a curmudgeon and cackles that she was just like that at her age. Keri ignores her and fiddles with her phone which has no signal.  So she decides to watch a horror movie called "Suicide Stripper 2" to cheer herself up. She lights up a cigarette and rolls the windown down a little and suddenly notices the campsite is surrounded by what looks like rocks.

Meanwhile John and Marcus are walking through the snow.  John is telling him about a man called John Franklin who tried mapping the Artic, he never returned from an expedition and his body was found frozen and stripped of flesh.  They could tell by the scratches on the bones themselves. Even his brain had been cleaned out. Marcus asks what the point of this gory story about people disappearing from where they are currently walking.  John just asks him how good he is with a gun these days.

Marcus: "One,  Yes I can still shoot. Two.  You are seriously freaking me out!"

Back at the camp, everyone is getting a bit tipsy.  Keri demands they take and look outside, so Chris peeks through the tent flaps and sees the same strange "rocks" surrounding them.  "They weren't there when we drove in and set up" says Richard suddenly serious.
Spooky story time.
Kelly says it must me some eskimo curse.  Keri tells her they don't call themselves Eskimos anymore, it was a collective term for the various peoples who live above the Artic like the Inuit and Yupik.  So Eskimo is out like Indian is for Native Amercians. Kelly says "we don't call them Indians because General Custard killed them all, thank God".  Keri says it's "Custer" and actually the Native Americans killed him, "rightfully so, I might add."

"Well look who's paying attention in class" says Richard. "Idiots" mutters Keri.  Then Chris looks out again and says the stones have gone.  Then suddenly he's wrenched out in a flurry of blood.  Richard, Kelly and Keri manage to get into the jeep as the tent is attacked and the others sliced to pieces.  The jeep drives through the black bodied beings who assaulted them and gets free.  "Richard,  I don't think these are the vampires from the book" says Kelly. 
The party are attacked.
As they drive, Kelly asks if Richard thinks the others are still alive.  Richard says he hopes not.  We cut to the ruined camp.  One of the men is still alive, though badly wounded.  He pleads with the figure standing over him to not hurt him.  His screams are heard by Marcus and John.  John tells Marcus that the party have fallen prey to the "unnuar amarok", all the disappearances round these parts are down to them. "Just keep them in front of you" instructs John "and remember one thing - nothing lives without a head."

Richard's panicked driving has got them lost.  The GPS system isn't responding and neither are the radio or satellite phone.  They are flying blind.  Richard says if they keep driving they should hit something soon. He and Keri bicker as she accuses him of being the idiot who wanted to go vampire hunting in Alaska.  Richard ungallantly says it was her mother's idea. Then they see a cave and they drive into it to hide.

Keri doesn't think they should be stopping. Richard says they'll conserve fuel, build a fire and maybe someone will find them in the daylight.  But Keri points out it won't be daylight for thirteen more days.  Then they notice the cave has a funny smell and is warm. Richard says it's probably an underground spring. They have supplies, they can hold out for a while. 
The "vampires" torture their prey.
Then they hear Chris screaming.  They look to where it is coming from and see him being held down and having his skin and flesh ripped off while still alive by black humanoids with almost lamprey mouths and no eyes or noses.  "We walked right into their lair" whispers Keri, "well mom, you got your vampires".  They rip and tear Chris who finally dies as they completely rip the meat from his bones and consume it.

"That noise is horrible!" exclaims Kelly stupidly loudly and the vampires turn and realise they have company.  Richard fires a flare gun at them as they approach. The vampires grab all three of them but Keri manages to struggle free though her clothes are ripped off in the process.  Her parents are killed and she stands frozen in a pond of blood.  One of them comes close and sniffs her.  Things look bad for her, then John shoots it in the head.
John Ikos to the rescue.
Then he blasts the others closest to her. He tells Marcus to get her out of there then tosses his belt of flash grenades at the advancing group of vampires and ignites it from a distance with a shot from his pistol, there is an almighty Fooom. Marcus drapes his coat round Keri and apologises for punching her dad.  When she asks for them he has to tell her they didn't make it out.

He takes her back to John's cabin where he is waiting for them.   Keri asks him what those things really were.  John says that some folks believe they are vampires who came and settled here a long time ago.  Their bodies adapted to the extreme weather conditions and over the centuries became a different species altogether.  Keri thanks him for killing them.

John: "Dead? I doubt they're all dead. They're survivors like us."

The story then comes to a close with the narrator saying that long ago, over many years, many braved the journey to search for new lands. And only a few ever returned. "And as the legend goes, some of the weary travellers stayed behind and became part of the land.  And part of the terror".  The end.
Only Keri survives.
This is a worthy note to end my looks at the 30 Days of Night series.  Human's can fight vampires and even win small victories, but vampires both ancient and modern still plague the world and Barrow will probably never be totally safe despite the ban the modern vampires are under from going there and the protection of Eben and Stella. The ancient vampires depicted here are horrifying blank faced monsters.  Acting on sadistic instinct there is no reasoning with them just death by dismemberment while you are still alive. Despite the generally unpleasant nature of the doomed hunting party (apart from Keri), and their monumental stupidity they didn't deserve to die the way they did.  John Ikos once again shows what a badass he is at killing vampires and the most likeable "Final Girl" escapes thanks to his efforts.  Bill Sienkiewicz's art is superb.  From frosty portraiture to the feeding of the vampires degenerating into thick black chaotic line work he depicts the freezing cold horror expertly.  His layouts especially capture the frenzy of the ancient vampire attacks.  I believe recently Steve Niles has started the 30 Days of Night's franchise up again after a break of some years and I may be seeking them out at some point in the future.  But for now this is the capstone on what has been a very high quality run of miniseries. Both omnibuses are well worth your expenditure if you enjoy tales of real, non-sparkling vampires.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Midnighter Book 2: Hard (#8-12)

"Almost too late Apollo.  You have something better to do?" - Midnighter

Well it's Valentine's Day so time for something a little romantic.  And what could be more romantic than a superhuman combat machine in black leather beating the shit out of people. OK, you'll have to bear with me for the romantic bit. First an introduction to Midnighter if you haven't read the previous books of his I've covered.  Originally a member of The Authority in the Wildstorm universe where he was the Batman expy.  He was and still is an openly gay man who ended up marrying his lover Apollo, the Wildstorm Superman expy.  When the Wildstorm universe was merged with the main DCU with the launch of the New 52, he and Apollo were members of Stormwatch and still together.  When the DCYou launched him in this, his solo series, he broke up with Apollo and hit the club scene.  He ended up falling for a man who got very close to him only to reveal he was the supervillian Prometheus who wanted the Midnighter's tech and had memorised and destroyed the file on who Midnighter really was as a kid before he was kidnapped and filled with battle computers and enhanced strength and healing by the Gardener of The God Garden.  He thought Midnighter wouldn't kill him as he would lose his chance to find out who he really was but Midnighter punched his head into jelly. But while this betrayal hurt Midnighter a lot he won't let himself brood over it. Now with the DC Rebirth this series was cancelled and it's obvious this final storyline is a little rushed because of the need to tie up the end of an arc in time.  So we won't hold that against it as we take a look at the second and final volume of Midnighter written by Steve Orlando and art by Aco.

In the subway tunnels under New York is a weird blend of gorilla and rhino. It gets shot by a man with a high powered rifle who declares himself "top of the food chain". Elsewhere in the city an man called "Mr. Mndawe" arrives by plane and is greeted superciliously.  He says he is there  "tying up loose ends".
Midnighter tells his story.
We then cut to Midnighter telling his story to an interviewer called Robert who is making a documentary about him.  He tells him that he was experimented on as a kid, designed from the ground up to win fights.  This ended his first relationship and when he tried to move on and let someone close to him he was betrayed.  The person tried to use the only record of Midnighter's childhood against him and Midnighter killed him.  Robert says this person "tried to hurt you, did he?"  Midnighter responds "Do I look hurt Robert?" Robert says he looks "great".

Midnighter: "I don't look back.  Midnighteris who I am.  No matter where I am.  There are certain realities to that. Some people are good.  Some people play games.  People lie. But when it happens to me, there's armour and energy weapons. The guy was garbage.  I punched his face into his brain.  I'm working through it.  That's my style".

Robert says that's a lot to take in.  Will, Robert's roommate says "Robert does have a line between professional fascination and unrepentant lust." Will says this documentary on Midnighter will help a lot of people and he hears there may be photography. "I do have a reputation as an exhibitionist of sorts" jokes Midnighter. 

Then he gets a call from one of his "assets" (people he tags who can communicate with him via a patch he puts on them).  The caller tells him "something large, toothy and elaborate just exploded out of the ground. Should be your type of thing".  Midnighter calls up one of his doors that allow him to travel instantaneously anywhere on the planet telling Robert and Will, "to be continued boys".
The Ele-leopard.
A few minutes earlier two hunters missed their shot at the monster they were hunting and it got free out onto the streets. Midnighter jumps out in front of a huge tusked cat monster.   He chucks something at it and hits it in the face.  It looks sad and Midnighter says "I've seen that look before.  Although usually not on four legs".  Before he can lay into it further  a man in costume appears and stops him.  He says the animals are innocent.  Animals plural, queries Midnighter.  Then the man touches the beast and de-merges it into a leopard and an elephant.

He introduces himself as "Dominic Mndawe", his gift is a helmet and elixir that lets him merge animals to create chimeras and take them apart again.  His elixir has been synthesised by an illegal hunt club but is incomplete.  "There is no communion with the Red, the animal force that flows through us all" he says.  Fat designer wallets prey on the artifical chimeras.  He has shut down the main organisation, there is just the one satellite group here.

Dominic: "The creatures they create die scared, hurt and confused. These are people in dire need of assault.  Will you follow me?"

Midnighter agrees and they follow the elephant who Dominic is communing telepathically with. She takes them to where she was changed and Domonic and Midnighter bust their way in and start beating the scumbag hunters up.

One of them says "you assholes better be ready for something you've never seen before" and sets a huge spider monster on them.   Midnighter says to it that it's not it's fault "someone made you a monster.  I can relate" and he knocks the creature out rather than killing it.  He drops to the ground and a man holds a gun to his head. Unphased Midnighter says he can hit him before he can pull the trigger and then does so.  He holds the man who was in charge of the place in a choke hold, and Dominic merges him with a mosquito.
Dominic, one of the Karma Police.
Midnighter goes to squash him, but Dominic stops him. "It's over.  Let nature take it from here" he says.  So Midnighter flicks it in the path of a bat which eats it.  Oh dear. What a shame. Never mind.  Dominic thanks him for his help.

Midnighter: "The hurt never need worry.  The hurters are on borrowed time."

Dominic asks him if he thinks death is the end of something.  It is when he does it, says Midnighter and tells Dominic the team-up was fun.

Later he goes to the women's prison and picks up a woman called Marina Hyde who was arrested and jailed in book one and he made her one of his assets.  Now she's been released he is there to pick her up.  But before he can drive her somewhere he gets an emergency call and walks through a door. There he is confronted by two women, Susan and Helena Bertinelli who work for "Spyral" one of the zillion secret quasi-governmental organisations in the DCU.

After some tense chat, Helena tells Midnighter some dangerous tech has gone missing, "the Perdition Pistol" has to be retrieved before it is weaponised on a global scale.  Midnighter says "I won't work for you.  But I will work with you" and she shows him the targets.  It's Task Force X more commonly known as "The Suicide Squad."
Oh, those guys.
Midnighter is told that the pistol is most likely being held at an orbiting station called "The Crows Nest" and they fire a capsule containing Midnighter at it.  He crashes inside and notes "Waller's team uses a single, two way teleport tube to get in and out.  Old school, like dark internet".  That will be his way out and it'll be heavily guarded.  Midnighter hopes so, he's up for a fight and has armed himself with a crowbar.

He walks into the control room and confronts the head of The Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller.  They are another shadowy government agency but one opposed to Spyral. Amanda says maybe she should add Midnighter to her "collection".   He walks to where the pistol is being held then suddenly a man with electricity arcing round him appear in front of him.

The man gleefully says he's wearing a "mercury mantle" which makes him the fastest killer alive at the cost of years off his life. "And you punch things" he sneers at Midnighter who grins and says "but I am really good at it".   He tells the man that he maybe faster than him fifty-nine seconds out of a minute, "but I've got that one second.  And I'll make it count.  That's all I need to cripple you" and with that he snaps the man's achilles tendon.
He then takes the pistol.  As he walks through the station he sees a monitor with schematics of a human body and the name Henry Bendix at the bottom which Midnighter recognises.  He then jumps out into space and falls through one of his doors just after blowing the pistol up, much to Helena's annoyance as he arrives back at base.  He tells her they have bigger problems the harness the man was wearing was like something from The God Garden only more advanced. "Task Force X is working with a bad man" he tells her.

He shows her an image of Henry Bendix.  If the Gardener is his mother, Bendix is his father until he crossed a line and was thrown out of the God Garden.  Waller has dug him up and is backing a project he abandoned when it went beyond his control:

Midnighter: "The Unified.  A military killer fueled by Kryptonian DNA and a fight computer like mine.  I won't allow them to achieve this and neither will you".

Helena tells Midnighter to "bring me his head."  Later at the diner/bar he frequents he's hanging out with Robert and Jason his mate from book one. Jason asks Robert what his take on "the worlds sexiest vigilante?"  Robert says he is undecided but Midnighter's story is powerful and needs to be told.
Midnighter talks the facts of his life.
Midnighter says these peaceful moments are a rarity for him and Robert could end up in danger.  "Nothing meaningful comes without risk" says Robert.   They go for a walk with Midnighter back in costume. Robert asks if killing all the people he does just perpetuates the cycle of violence, Midnighter says "I'd rather get my hands dirty than good people".  He calls for a door, then stops and says "you kids think I can't hear you... I noticed the moment..." and someone hits him.

Harley Quinn barges past Robert while Midnighter's mystery assailant catches one of his punches. Then Midnighter takes a heavy blow to the head.  Robert demands to know who they are and why they are attacking Midnighter.  Midnighter shouts to Robert to get away from the open door, which explodes.

With Midnighter lying stunned in the rubble Task Force X - Harley Quinn, Deadshot and the mystery assailant - stand over him and gloat, and I don't know how this version of Harley Quinn has anything in common with the freewheeling lunatic of her solo series.  Midnighter runs through the fight in his head and can't understand how his assailant dodged his strikes. He asks the man how. 

The man says his name is "Afterthought"  he's been infused with a chrono-chemical substance, "every moment, I'm seeing five seconds into the future, so no matter what move you make I always know what it's going to be".  Deadshot wants to know if that's true how did he get arrested (the gimmick behind the Suicide Squad is they are criminals put to work with bombs in their necks to keep them doing what Amanda Waller wants) and Afterthought says, "who says I was, Deadshot?"  Then he lays into Midnighter hard until he collapses into Robert's lap and Harley and Deadshot bear down on his helpless body.
Midnighter and Robert on the wrong side of a beatdown.
Shortly after Midnighter has been taken by Task Force X and Robert is left lying on the ground. Marina, now working for Spyral helps him up. Helena is with her as well.  He's in shock, Helena says he put himself "between a vigilante and a superhuman hit squad. I hope you had a good reason".  Robert asks where Midnighter has been taken, she says he'd be "way less gone if he'd worked with me, instead of in spite of me." He refused the nano virus they inject in agents to trace them so they are looking for him the old fashioned way.

Angrily Robert walks away say Midnighter works himself to the bone to help people despite the maipulation and experiments dones to him. Helena knows that and he's hanging him out to dry to "prove a point".  They better find him soon before Midnighter decides they're part of the problem.

In the Artic, Midnighter is being held in a Task Force X black site.  He is chained up securely.  Amanda Waller tells him she had plans for the Perdition Pistol, "that's what I do.  Use bad things to help good people" and now what is she going to do with Midnighter. Deadshot tries baiting him, but Waller tells him he is being stupid and tells him to step outside with her.
Deadshot (yes, he's actually white in the comics!) being an ass.
Deadshot is annoyed that Afterthought is her new "fixer" and Deadshot was saddled with the mission to relocate Bendix.  Waller tells him Henry Bendix is the most important military scientist since The Gardener.  Midnighters assault on the Crows Nest compromised the Unified project, which requires Kryptonian DNA which they can get now Superman can bleed (Superman had lost most of his powers and had his secret identity blown at this point in time). Afterthought has a higher sucess rate than Deadshots entire team, "you are te B-team son, now get to work".

Deadshot slouches off, and Waller returns to Midnighter.  She tells Midnighter they'll turn his skin to salt, crack it off over and over until he tells them about Helena Bertinelli's counter intelligence.   Midinighter tells them he's been cut open and had his muscles and bones dug out and replaced, "there is not a person on this planet.  Not a pain in this universe that could make me do something against my will".  He tells her he actually likes her more than Bertinelli, bombs in necks is a genius idea.

He respects that she "squeezes good out of bad" but he has bad news for her.  Everytime she blinked he has been vibrating the chair.  He respects her, yes, but he gave Bertinelli his word.  "So I better get to work killing you" he continues.  Waller laughs, but Midnighter has vibrated the chair so much the chains pop apart. He rises up and kicks one of his captors in the head.  Waller quickly slips away as Midnighter takes down the rest of the guards.
It's clobberin' time.
He then uses the computer to trace Bendix and the rest of the team, "time to ruin moving day". We then join Bendix, who is with Afterthought, Deadshot, Parasite and Harley Quinn.  Bendix tells Afterthought that if he and Waller can complete The Unified they'll have an unstoppable soldier.

Bendix:  "Hand-holding doesn't save lives.  Boots to necks do.  The Unified could step on every neck.  That's worth dealing with you people".

He is surprised when he realises there is only Afterthought and three others sent to move him and even more surprised when Midnighter teleports in.

Immediately the Squad attack him, he punches Parasite in the mouth and one of its teeth flies out and hits Harley in the head. He dodges Deadshot's bullets and breaks his fingers.   He was shot in the leg and his healing hasn't kicked in, because Parasite has stolen that power from him.  He ends up slumped on the ground bleeding out and Harley knocks him out wuth her giant mallet.  Midnighter comes round chained up again inside of a missile. Deadshot, his hands bandaged in "circuitry guaze" tells Harley to push the button and activate the auto destruct and the bomb explodes.
Another fine mess...
We then cut to Opal City sometime afterwards.  Midnighter wakes up and finds he is in Apollo's bed.  Apollo says he slept almost a day, "you almost died, Midnighter. Never been that close.  You called me.  Remember?"  We flash back to Midnighter chained up in the missile as the auto destruct activates.  Midnighter manages to open a communication channel to Apollo and says "I need you".  Apollo then flies off immediately to save him, yanking him out of the missile before it blows.

Back with the Suicide Squad they are bickering, with Deadshot trying to provoke Afterthought.  Waller ignores them and tells Bendix the "retrieval mission was a success" and hands him a canister which contains the Kryptonian DNA.  Waller warn him that if he loses control of The Unified she'll put them both down. He says "if I lost control, you couldn't stop it."
.. but his knight in shining armour saves him.
He's created The Unified with tactical hardware and a booby trapped nanovirus to control him with.  Because Wallet delivered the DNA he'll hold up his part of the bargain.  His door fields can transport people anywhere on the planet.  He puts them at her disposal.  Also he can track the Midnighter via his battle computer he designed.  Waller says Deadshot blew him up, but Bendix says us computer is giving off a signal, "looks like Deadshot missed".  But he won't.

Meanwhile Apollo and Midnighter are having a heart to heart.  Midnighter tells Apollo all about Prometheus and how he tried to break him with an impossible choice.  Now he'll never know his past because he killed him.  Since he broke up with Apollo he's worked hard to make himself better.  He met people  who knew who he was and didn't care.  Those people saved him, he trrusted them like he should have trusted Apollo, or Andrew as he calls him:

Midnighter: "What I did was stupid Andrew. I don't expect anything from you.  But at the end of the world, there wasn't anyone else I wanted to see."

Apollo sits next to him and says someone has to remind him he's mortal.  Midnighter says he's always known Gods walk the earth and they start to go in for a kiss when his message alarm goes off.
So close.
Marina says she knows Apollo is with him and could the both of them come in, she'll send coordinates.  At Spyral headquarters Midnighter says Bendix has what he needs to finish The Unified. It'll kill thousands of civilians to further Bendix's agenda of control through fear. Suddenly a big door opens underneath them and everyone falls through except Midnighter and Helena.  Apollo flies through and catches everyone so they fall safely.  They are stranded in Turkmenistan. Apollo races back while the displaced personal radio HQ for transport.

Then Task Force X attack Midnighter.  First he deals with Captain Boomerang easily then faces down Parasite.  He still has Midnighter's healing abilities but Midnighter tells him he knows of "some things that would slow me down" and spears Parasite through the heart. With Parasite down and out, Apollo returns and Afterthought says he hopes he's more of a challenge than Robert was.  Is Midnighter ready for round two?  "Damn right. Are you" he grins.

Harley and Deadshot are wwatching Bendix bring The Unified to life, "now costumed conscripts are obselete" Bendix says.  Harley thinks this'll mean a vacation.   The Unified pulses with crackling energy as Bendix powers him up.  Afterthought is beating up Midnighter who isn't putting up a fight.  Finally Midnighter notes he looks tired. Afterthought says he landed every punch and Midnighter says yes he did, just where he'd doubled his armour.

Midnighter: "Fighting isn't just offence, I've got to know... do you like what's coming next"

Afterthought whispers, "no" then Midnighter snaps his arm.  Helena says not to kill him, they can study him.  Helena brings up a map of the globe and says she has detected a huge energy bloom off the Florida coast. Midnighter says Bendix is debuting his new toy in public. They must mobilise everything they've got against it. Helena says Midnighters boast that he's beaten gods before better be true.  "Time to find out, isn't it?" he responds.
The Unified is activated.
At the Task Force X safehouse, Bendix opens a door and sends The Unified through.  Waller asks where he sent it, Bendix says he's giving a little demonstration, "somewhere that needs to be reminded who's in charge".  The Unified has been sent to Fando, the second most populous city in the fictional Balkan state of Modoria.  In book one Modorian terrorists attacked a Boston restaurant, "they invaded enemy soil.  Now they pay the price." 

Waller says they need to eliminate the underground militia but not attack the public.  Bendix tells her not to be niave, this is what she signed up for.  "People can't fear a big stick if they don't know you're carrying it".  Suddenly Midnighter and Apollo appear and ask him "you want to fight"

Comicdom's dream couple in action together again.
We then cut to Modoria where Appollo, Midnighter have taken out the Suicide Squad.  But The Unified is on the rampage much to Waller's horror.  She demands Bendix shut The Unified down now, but Bendix says he is going to make an example of the whole country, everyone within Modoria's borders will die. Then they won't dare question US authority.  Waller calls the Squad and tells them Bendix has gone rogue.  They must cease their attack on Spyral and Midnighter.  But Multiplex man says he really hates Midnighter (who he fought in book one) and keeps attacking him.

The Unified makes its way down the streets laser blasting vehicles and buildings as he goes.   Apollo taps him on the shoulder and then sucker punches him with an elbow to the back of the neck.  While Apollo battles The Unified in the air, Midnighter takes a high tech gun from a police officer out on the street.

Waller and Bendix are fighting he says the world must know who to respect. Waller says she's been fighting for respect her whole life.  She is about to knife him when he escapes through a door.  Apollo meanwhile has been downed, The Unified yells at him saying his battle computer is generations ahead of "your boyfriend's".  Apollo fights back saying it isn't his job to defeat him, it's Midnighter's.
Apollo takes The Unified on first.
He tosses The Unified down to where Midnighter is waiting, firing a laser that pierces The Unified's head.  Midnighter tells him he's only just been born, no way is he at full solar charge.  And Apollo just burned out his tactical nervous system.  Modorians worship sonic technology, the revolver is sonic and he's bypassed the safety's to get it to "vibrate your invulnerable blood in your invulnerable brain until it pops like a grape.  Henry made you into his Apollo and Midnighter?  Bad news.  Nothing beats the originals."

He starts frying The Unified's brain and it begins to work.  But then The Unified laser beams it and destroys it.  He beats Midnighter and tells him he had the part of his brain that feels empathy removed.   He doesn't feel anything when he kills, it's just a job and he likes being that way.  His X-ray vision spots another sonic gun under Midnighter's jacket. "Yeah but you shouldn't have blinked" says Midnighter and fires it at The Unified and his head explodes like a watermelon. Apollo comes flying down and holds him and they come close to a kiss again.
Getting closer...
Apollo flies him back to where Helena is.  She's arrested Multiplex, but the rest of the Suicide Squad are suspciously gone. Helena says they helped protect the city, today the priority is the people, tommorrow they'll be spy games.   Helena then says thankyou to Midighter saying she couldn't have done it without him. Later at the God Garden, The Gardener is being told that Bendix is alive by Midnighter.  The Gardener invites him to come work with her.  But he says he has a life down below with people who see him as a person "not a means to an end."  If she ever questions them again, he'll kill her.

Back on Earth Midnighter is hanging out with Robert and Will. He says Robert has a documentary to finish and Robert starts up the recording device asking "what's next for Midnighter?" Midnighter just grins.  Later in Detroit he has a meal in a diner with Amanda Waller.  She says he'd be more use to her than to Helena Bertinelli.  He tells her Helena is reverse engineering Afterthought as they speak.  He says he still respects Amanda "you took a better shot at me than most".

Back in Boston, Midnighter and Apollo are celebrating in the bar. Jason says he's happy to see Midnighter so relaxed.  And Apollo is a welcome sight as well. The next morning Apollo and Midnighter are getting dressed, Midnighter says working side by side with Apollo felt "right".  He knows he's made mistakes and he'll move on if Apollo tells him to, it's probably what he deserves and.... Apollo lays a great big kiss on his lips to shut him up. See there is romance!

Apollo:  "That's what you deserve.  The rest?  Trust me, not a fight computer, Do that and we can see where it goes."

Midnighter says for once he doesn't know how this will end and looks forward to finding out. Meanwhile there is a lot of work to do, "and I'm just getting started".
And they both lived happily ever after (in my head at least).
And that brings this DCYou run of Midnighter to a close.  The trade paperback has two issues of his Wildstorm series in it, which is a nice thought but they read oddly when out of context and so I am not covering them.  It's a real shame that a series with an openly gay main character, who was actually allowed to be shown kissing men and getting dressed after a wild night with them has been cancelled.  Now there is actually an Apollo and Midnighter miniseries by the same creative team which will be availiable as a trade in July.  I haven't wanted to Google it to see if it's lead to an ongoing series because I want to avoid spoilers.  At any rate this is one packed book, it obviously had to be wrapped up fast but apart from a couple of egregious infodumps it plays out pretty well.  It is nice that Midnighter realises Apollo is the man for him and it's very cute how he gets all insecure around him when he's usually such a together person.  Once again we get a battle against a superior enemy that is settled using brain power not brawn. And it's always nice to see The Suicide Squad who seem to have been treated as better and more dangerous here than in their own series, even if I still can't reconcile Harley Quinn here with Harley the crazy land-lady of Coney Island.  This series, both writing and artwise was one of the highlights of the DCYou and it's a crime it didn't sell well enough to get an ongoing as part of the DC Rebirth.  Maybe they should have waited to see how they'd sell as trades before pre-empting them with the line wide cancelling and Rebirth of a chosen few.  Still I shall await the release of Apollo and Midnighter with great anticpation and you'll surely see it on this blog before the year is out.